Thursday, July 28, 2016

UGLE Masonic Festival Jewels

I met friend and Brother Chris Quigley at a Cryptic Council annual session in Indianapolis perhaps ten years ago. He was in town from his home in England, and he was a regular attendee every year at this event. He had become good friends with many Indiana Masons from continuing to attend this event almost every year, and they so enjoyed his company and participation and enthusiasm that in 2008 he was made an Honorary Past Most Illustrious Grand High Priest in the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons in Indiana

Over the years he has posted comments on this blog, and Facebook has allowed us to chat a little easier than just meeting every couple of years or so. A few weeks ago, he asked what year I had been born in, because he was preparing to send me a gift.

Well, it arrived this week. Chris tracked down a set of three commemorative Stewards Jewels from the 1958 English Masonic Festival.

From the enclosed note:
Around the mid 1800s, the United Grand Lodge of England decided to instigate Festival Stewards Jewels for the three main Masonic Charities.
From then until the late 1930s, they made them out of solid silver. These have now become very expensive and rare. The jewels are for the main charities: Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, and the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.
Worshipful Brother Christopher Hodapp was born in 1958 and these are the three Festival Stewards Jewels for that year. These jewels are now becoming very rare and a special collector's item.
In subsequent years, two charities have been added to the list: the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund. In addition, the two former charities for the Royal Institutions for Boys and Girls have been combined into one. 

The jewel for 2018 is on the right, and is given to any Brother who donates £300 to the Charities over a five year period. Doing so makes him a Steward of the Festival. Hence, the creation of the jewels to commemorate the occasion. (It looks like there is no Festival for 2017, probably because of the 300th anniversary  

A total of 44 out of the 47 provinces of the UGLE take part in hosting the Festivals. It appears that in earlier days, three Provinces would combine their efforts for a Festival and each of the three would choose one of the three main charities to support. Today, each Festival is the climax of five years of fundraising by a single Province, which is celebrated by with a Festival Banquet, attended by those who have qualified as Stewards, together with their ladies. 

Further explanation is available on the 2018 Festival website
Each Province is asked once in every 11 years to collect funds for one of the main Masonic charities. The Charity Festival System in English Freemasonry has been developed to rotate specific fund raising evenly around the Provinces. There are 44 Provinces in the system. The intention is for each Province to have supported all of the four charities over a period of 44 years. 
A Charity Festival is designed to last for 5 years, although we do know in advance of the launch year when our Festival will end and which charity we will be supporting.
United Grand Lodge of England has four separately designated charities. They are The Grand Charity, The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and the final charity, which you will become very familiar with is The Masonic Samaritan Fund or the MSF. The Festival charities derive no income from outside funding such as the National Lottery. The majority of money spent comes from Masonic donations and in the case of the MSF is available primarily to Freemasons and their dependants.
It follows that, normally, each Province hosts a Festival once every 11 years with each Province supporting each of the four Charities once over a 44 year period.
The last festival held in this Province (Yorkshire, North and East Ridings)  finished in 2006 and the efforts made by all our Masonic brethren produced £2.2 million  for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 and Freemasonry. Yes, No Kidding

The quirky and slightly off-kilter website is not generally known for its informative, rational side. The front page frequently lists topics like "2 Girls In A Trunk Wrestle In Their Underwear," viral videos, pranks and fails, and a section dedicated to the just plain weird. In short, it's a classic internet site for the bored, loaded with click-bait and time wasting silliness.

So who woulda thought that would create an excellent, concise, rational, fact-filled and almost error free page called "20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Freemasonry"

If you've got a son or a nephew or a neighbor with a short attention span (who's just not going to read a For Dummies book) who you think might have an interest in the fraternity, steer them to this article. Would that the average grand lodge website was written this well.

Props to Urbanski.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Houston Scottish Rite's "Holodeck"

Back when I first joined the fraternity in 1998, a group of younger Indiana Masons excitedly batted around the notion of creating a virtual reality version of Solomon's Temple and other scenarios, especially to make the conferral of degrees more immersive. At the time, VR technology was in its infancy, and pretty much beyond the reach of even the most dedicated computer hobbyists. But that is changing.

Take a look at what the Scottish Rite Valley of Houston  has been up to. They moved to a new location in 2013, and they rethought the traditional methodology of conferring the Scottish Rite degrees on a stage. Instead of building a new auditorium, they created an immersive space using screens wrapping around three quarters of the room and fed by projectors that can show static scenes or moving images. For the moment, it appears to be used to project elaborate backdrops for live actors. But that could easily change in the future as the technology and the programming are developed.

The AASR-NMJ has been showing a few degrees projected on video for several years now - mostly to aid Valleys that can't assemble qualified casts anymore - but most of them have not been very well received by candidates or seasoned veterans (although some have clearly been better than others, and the desire to help struggling Valleys is certainly commendable). The main criticism has centered around a basic "I didn't join to watch TV" theme. But what Houston is doing is quite different. It will be fascinating to see the direction this heads, as well as the reception among members.

Towards the end of the 19th century in the U.S., the Scottish Rite became the fastest growing fraternal organization in the country. It was due in part to its use of what were at that time state of the art theatrical scenery, lighting, music, sound and special effects. That's how so many not so large cities across the country got massive Scottish Rite auditoriums in them. They were presenting frontier theatre that was as well produced as anything you could see in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. In many ways, what both Houston and the NMJ are doing is just an extension of that philosophy. 

Anti-Masons Created First Third Party and the Modern Nominating Convention

William Wirt, first Anti-Masonic Presidential Candidate

Yesterday's online edition of The Daily Beast featured a very decent article by Gil Troy on the first political convention in the United States, which was held by the new Anti-Masonic Party in Baltimore in 1831 to choose a presidential candidate. Interestingly, the party nominated William Wirt, a former Mason who was at odds with the philosophy of his own party and had no desire to become president. He famously remarked, "I have not the nerve to bear the vulgar abuse which is the politician’s standing dish.” In contrast to his own nominating party, he “continually regarded Masonry as nothing more than a social and charitable club.”  

Nevertheless, the other two political parties of the time responded by organizing these new style of conventions of their own. The National Republicans went on to nominate Henry Clay, and the recently formed Democratic Party (which had developed out of Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans) nominated Freemason Andrew Jackson. Interestingly, Jackson would quickly purge the party of his detractors, and Clay would go on to eventually form the Whig party a few years later, made up in large part of anti-Jacksonian Democrats.

Jackson and Clay were both Past Grand Masters (Clay of Kentucky,  Jackson of Tennessee), and Wirt had been a Mason as well. So, the Anti-Masonic crowd had a lot of fodder for their campaign. Nevertheless, the Anti-Masons received just 7% of the national vote in 1832, and Wirt ultimately carried only tiny Vermont in the election. Andrew Jackson would prevail and became the first President who had also served as a Grand Master.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saudi Clerics Issue Fatwa Against "Masonic" Pokemon GO

Today's online edition of The National, an English language publication from the United Arab Emirates, features a report that a group of top Saudi clerics have issued a fatwa (or rather, extended an existing one from 2001) against Muslims playing the inexplicably popular time wasting game, Pokemon GO

Because, you see,  among other things, it's "Masonic."

First issued in 2001 when Pokemon was played with cards, the decree says the game violates Islamic prohibitions against gambling, uses devious Masonic-like symbols and promotes “forbidden images". The fatwa has reappeared in a ticker on the home page of the kingdom’s portal for official religious decrees.
Sheikh Saleh Al Fozan, a member of the kingdom’s ultraconservative council of senior clerics, said the current version of the game is the same as the old one.
The edict notes that a six-pointed star in the game, for example, is associated with the state of Israel and that certain triangular symbols hold important meanings for the Freemasonry. Crosses in the game are a symbol of Christianity, while other symbols are associated with polytheism, says the edict.
The game is popular in the Middle East and many gamers have downloaded the app though it’s not been officially released regionally.
A senior official at Egypt’s Al Azhar, the pre-eminent seat of Sunni scholarship in the Muslim world, has also spoken out against the game. Al Azhar undersecretary Abbas Shumman said users can lose their sense of reality and endanger themselves while playing, adding that a “manic attachment to technology" can also make people forgetful toward worship and prayer.
Other articles from Middle Eastern countries have condemned the game's "Pokestops" that appear in mosques. There's been no shortage of inappropriate locations that maniacal players have been led to, including the interior of the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. 

Freemasons all over the world have been reportedly discovering "Pokestops" in their lodge buildings, and many have expressed unbridled excitement that swarms of complete strangers have suddenly shown up on their doorsteps without knowing (or caring) exactly where they were. I suspect some grand lodge committee somewhere is now industriously working up an official protocol for answering questions about the fraternity and seeing to it that petitions are thrust into oblivious players' hands before they can rush out the door in search of their next Pokestop (or get promptly plowed into by an unobservant Uber driver).

"Why don't we ever see your wife?"

Posted by a Brother on another forum. He and his wife are longtime veterans of local, state, and national Masonic meetings:

"I was recently asked by a Brother Mason, "We know you are married, why don't we ever see your wife?"

Monday, July 18, 2016

Illus. David Bedwell 33° Passes Away

Word has come that Illus. Brother David Bedwell, 33°, Scottish Rite Deputy for Michigan and Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan 2002-2003, passed to Celestial Lodge Above on Sunday.

Please keep his wife Pauline and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.


I have received the following funeral service information.

Visitation Thursday 2-8 p.m. at Querfeld Funeral Home, 1200 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124. Masonic Memorial Service Thursday 7 p.m. under the Auspices of Dearborn Lodge #172 F&AM.

Funeral service Friday 10 a.m. Querfeld Funeral Home.

Titles And Their Seekers

Many years ago, my wife and I were in Paris, and we stopped in one afternoon at the grand lodge building of the Grande Loge Nationale Fran├žaise. We had the pleasure of being shown around the building by a lodge secretary, and my wife was asking him questions about the French phraseology of Masonic titles. At one point, he made an observation that some men who join the fraternity feel unimportant in their daily lives. 
"He might be a shoemaker, or a janitor, or a taxi driver, or a clerk in a large corporation whose name his boss doesn't know. And he might feel like an absolute failure in his personal life. But when he becomes a Mason, everything changes. In here, he can be a grand this, a venerable that, a most exalted or most sovereign or most worshipful something or other. To some of these men, there will never be anything more important for as long as they live to have such a title, and to collect as many of them as they can. And that is our greatest shame in Freemasonry, that so many Masons have so long ago forgotten that we are all supposed to be equal within the walls of our lodges."
I'm not usually in the habit of sending readers to The Past Bastard Masonic satire site, but there's no two ways about it: Today's entry is not satirical. It's not even an exaggeration. It's dead on.

Read: Grand Master Finds New Masons Are Disillusioned With Titles

Freemasons Provide Home For Catholic Church

Most Freemasons are aware that the Roman Catholic Church does not approve of their parishioners becoming members of the fraternity. It has long been the position of Masons, on the other hand, that we do not restrict Catholics.

In a curious story today, a little group of independent Catholics outside of Boston were illegally occupying a closed Roman Catholic church building for over a decade, much to the annoyance of the Archdiocese of Boston. Their movement began simply as an attempt by the former parishioners to save their church, but because of the conflict, they were forced to conduct their own Sunday services themselves. Both out of devotion and their tenuous position as squatters, their members kept up a 24 hour vigil for almost twelve long years, with some members sleeping in the building.

After more than a decade of legal wrangling, the Friends of St. Francis X. Cabrini were finally given the boot by the courts, and needed to find a new home for their services. 

In a curious chapter of the Freemason/Catholic debate of almost three centuries, enter the Brethren of Satuit Lodge in Scituate, Massachusetts.

From an article today on by Allison Pohle:
Now, Tutunjian and a few dozen other parishioners meet at the Satuit Lodge of Freemasons, a large yellow building with green shutters and white pillars that’s less than two miles from the church they occupied for more than 11 years. Although 3,000 people are registered parishioners, Jon Rogers, a spokesman for the Friends, said anywhere from 40 to 100 people attend mass each week.
Robert Smith, the lodge’s master, said they’ve never had a church group request to meet inside the temple. Then again, he’d never heard of anyone quite like the parishioners of St. Frances.
“I’d followed their story and they had such dedication,” Smith said. “I only knew that an organization of good people within our community needed help, and that was enough for us. We wanted to make it work for them.”
“We told them we wouldn’t go into vigil here,” Maryellen Rogers, another spokeswoman for the Friends and Jon’s wife, said.
“To make them feel at home, we said we would tell them they needed to leave,” Smith said. Rogers laughed.
The first mass was held June 5, exactly one week after the final service at St. Frances. The Friends made sure they wouldn’t miss a Sunday.
“When we say something, we mean it,” Jon said. “We said we’d pursue every legal avenue. We did. We said we’d stay together. We have. And we’re only growing.”
The parishioners have advertised their new congregation as a church, which they call ‘The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,’ for those with no home. They want to give a space to those who have been injured in some previous church relationship, but also to those who want to experience Catholicism.  Jon said they’ve already had a handful of new parishioners.While the old congregation was led exclusively by parishioners, the new service is led by the Rev. Terry McDonough, who is married and has long been at odds with the Catholic church.
Photo by Jean Nagy/ 
"I slept over the church every Tuesday night for nearly 12 years, but I never took on the role of a priest so I didn’t ruin the sanctity of the vigil,” he said. “But now I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
To preserve the memory of the vigil, the congregation will hold one parishioner-led service each month. But on a recent Sunday morning in early July, they were following a more traditional service — in their own style.
Longtime St. Frances parishioner Susan Lynch strummed an acoustic guitar and sang a song called “All are welcome in this place.” About 40 people filed into the lodge’s large meeting room and took seats on large plush benches. There were no kneelers. An altar had been set up on a folding table in the middle of the room with a Bible and a chalice. Instead of facing forward, the parishioners faced one another.
McDonough led them through the mass then joined them downstairs for coffee and muffins. Now that the vigil has ended, the coffee hour has become the main time for socializing. Among those chatting was newcomer Jane Trettis.“I’ve never been to a Catholic Mass in a Masonic Temple before,” Trettis said. “These people worked so hard and it’s good they have a space.”
To read the whole article, CLICK HERE.

Cathedral Grafitti, Masons' Marks Illuminate Lives During Middle Ages

New studies of graffiti, mason's marks, and other inscriptions carved into the stones of medieval churches and cathedrals are shining new light on the lives and beliefs - as well as the talents - of the thousands of nameless workmen who constructed these magnificent edifices across Europe.

From an article by Matthew Champion on the Aeon website. He is the author of Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England’s Churches:
All of us can imagine the medieval world. Our imagination was created by our upbringing, the books we read, and the films we saw. Imagining the Middle Ages is an act that usually starts in childhood, and changes slowly as we grow older. From the brightly coloured pages of a child’s history book to the visceral panoramas of the latest season of Game of Thrones, how we see the Middle Ages changes. In most cases, however, the fundamental perspective remains the same: it’s an elite view of the medieval past, a Middle Ages composed of princes and kings, of knights and fair damsels in distress. It is a vision of the past that includes the splendour of great cathedrals and the brooding darkness of mighty castles. A past of banquets and battles. But it has little bearing upon reality.
The problem with our view of the Middle Ages is that it excludes the vast majority of people who lived in it, so it’s a highly partial and misleading picture of that world. Just like today, most medieval people did not belong to top 5 per cent of society, they weren’t kings, princes, knights, or damsels. Most men, women and children were commoners. It is no coincidence that this other, everyday, 95 per cent of the population was the one who did most of the work.
Putting aside farming, food processing and survival, it was these workers who were responsible for actually building most of what we think of when the Middle Ages come to mind. These are the people who built the magnificent medieval cathedrals, the craftsmen who constructed the dour and monumental castles. The workers whose blood and sweat bonds together the stones of every medieval church. They are the men whose deft fingers filled window spaces with blindingly bright stained glass. These are the people who built the Middle Ages. Yet we really know very little about them.
The past five or six years have seen a massive rise in one particular area of medieval studies – an area that has the potential to give back a voice to the silent majority of the medieval population. Specialists have been studying medieval church graffiti for many decades. But new digital imaging technologies, and the recent establishment of numerous volunteer recording programmes, have transformed its scope and implications. The study of early graffiti has become commonplace. The first large-scale survey began in the English county of Norfolk a little over six years ago. Norfolk is home to more than 650 surviving medieval churches – more than in any other area in England. The results of that survey have been astonishing.
To date, the Norfolk survey has recorded more than 26,000 previously unknown medieval inscriptions. More recent surveys begun in other English counties are revealing similar levels of medieval graffiti. A survey of Norwich Cathedral recently found that the building contained more than 5,000 individual inscriptions. Some of them dated as far back as the 12th century. It has also become clear that the graffiti inscriptions are unlike just about any other kind of source in medieval studies. They are informal. Many of the inscriptions are images rather than text. This means that they could have been made by just about anyone in the Middle Ages, not just princes and priests. In fact, the evidence on the walls suggests that they were made by everyone: from the lord of the manor and parish priest, all the way down to the lowliest of commoners. These newly discovered inscriptions are giving back individual voices to generations of long-dead medieval churchgoers. The inscriptions number in the hundreds of thousands, and they are opening an entire new world of research.
Medieval masons, the people who actually built these monuments, left the earliest markings to be found on any medieval church or cathedral. The traditional story is that each individual mason would have his own personal mark, which he’d inscribe wherever he’d worked. These angular marks, known today as ‘mason’s marks’, acted as a form of quality control. They also allowed the ‘master mason’, who doubled as architect and paymaster, to calculate how much each of his workmen was due to be paid. Masons today continue this old practice of marking their work, but their marks are more discreet, hidden away between stones and in darkened corners. Occasionally, the medieval masons left something more.
Their pragmatic approach to the construction of these stone monuments meant that the walls themselves sometimes served as drawing boards. In a few cases, such as at Binham Priory in Norfolk or Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, intricate working drawings can be found etched into the stones. The designs at Binham all appear to relate to the building of the priory’s great west front in the 1240s. It is one of the earliest marvels of gothic window design to be built in England. The nameless master-mason who undertook the work was apparently unfamiliar and uncomfortable with this innovative style. Step by step, he worked out the specifics of the design on the walls of the half-finished priory church. Sadly, the great west window, which acted as a centrepiece to the design, structurally failed in the late 18th century. It then had to be bricked up – and remains so today. From the mason’s inscriptions, however, we have a clear indication of how this groundbreaking design would have looked.
To read the rest of the article, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Virginia State Plaque Commemorating PHA Formation Unveiled

A new state historical marker was unveiled on Saturday in Petersburg, Virginia commemorating the founding of Prince Hall Masonry in that state in 1845.

From the website by Scott P. Yates:
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia F&AM, Inc., unveiled an historical marker memorializing the formation of the organization over 140 years ago during a ceremony at First Baptist Church in Petersburg on Saturday.
Under the guidance of master of ceremonies Julius D. Spain, the Right Worshipful Grand Director of Arlington Lodge No. 58, representatives of lodges from around Virginia gathered in the very church in which the lodge was founded in December 1875.
Jim Hare, the director of Division of Survey & Register at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, also spoke about the importance of recognizing the contributions Prince Hall Masons have made to the state of Virginia. 
“It’s always good when an organization can show where it began,” said Robert E. Harris Sr., senior past grand master. “And this organization has a long, rich history.” 
In March 1775, a Masonic Lodge attached to the British army initiated Prince Hall and 14 other free black men as Freemasons in Massachusetts. Meeting provisionally as African Lodge No. 1, the black Freemasons gained full privileges in 1787, when they organized African Lodge No. 459 under a charter from the Grand Lodge of England. 
The first affiliated lodge in Virginia was established in Alexandria in February 1845. After the Civil War, two rival Grand Lodges operated in Virginia. On December 15, 1875, these two Grand Lodges met at First Baptist Church on Harrison Street in Petersburg. They formed the present-day Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia, Free and Accepted Masons, Inc.
City representatives David R. Coleman and Councilman Darrin Hill made remarks on the significance of the Prince Hall Masons’ role in fostering the wellbeing of the citizens of Petersburg. 
(Photos by Scott Yates and Brother Charles M. Mosely) 

South Carolina Lodge Damaged After Shootout

Hillcrest Masonic Lodge No. 397 in Dalzell, South Carolina has been damaged in the aftermath of a police shootout and car chase early this morning. 

From an article today on website by reporter Noah Feit:
A man has been hospitalized after traded gunfire with security at a Sumter County night club and crashing his car early Sunday morning, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.
A 41-year-old man, who won’t be identified until he’s released from an area hospital and charges are filed, is listed in stable condition after undergoing surgery, according to public information officer Ken Bell, who said the man was discovered in his vehicle – 2012 Chevrolet Impala – after crashing into the Hillcrest Masonic Lodge, located at the intersection of Stamey Livestock and Frierson roads.
Sumter County Sheriff’s deputies originally responded to a call of a reported shooting at Three Dollar Lounge, a club on the 3800 block of Broad Street, said Bell, adding the incident began when the man was arguing with a woman in the parking and she drove away.
The man tried to re-enter the club and was turned away by two security guards, when he allegedly went to his vehicle and retrieved a weapon, according to Bell, also saying the man put the weapon to the chest of one of the security guards and pulled the trigger.
The security guard’s body armor stopped the bullet and he was uninjured, said Bell, but this prompted the security guards to return fire as the man fled to his vehicle, said Bell, adding the man continued to fire at the security guards. The man was shot at least three times but managed to drive away, said Bell, adding several other vehicles in the parking lot were hit by gunfire.
This is when the man allegedly passed another car at a high rate of speed before those witnesses discovered the man’s Impala crashed into the Hillcrest Masonic Lodge, where Bell said he was extracted from his vehicle and taken to an area hospital.
Hillcrest lodge No. 397 is located next to Shaw Air Force Base in Dalzell, SC, which is home to the 363 Fighter Wing and 9th Air Force Headquarters.  It was chartered in 1961 by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina. No estimate has been made yet as to the damages to the building.

Read more here:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Congress To Consider Bill To Protect Authors' Works

The Authors Guild is a membership organization dedicated to supporting its largely U.S. members on the business side of the publishing industry. Their mission is to "advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright," and their members are novelists, historians, journalists, poets, literary agents, and more. They provide legal advice on publishing contracts and copyright lawsuits, liability insurance for authors, help to get books that have gone out of print back into the marketplace, and even host websites for authors who don't have much computer expertise.

One of their longstanding goals has been to pass federal legislation that will aid authors in the fight against copyright infringement, which has taken on nightmarish proportions in the digital age. After a decade of work, that possibility has finally been nudged a little closer this week. 

From the Author's Guild website today:

Today Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill, entitled the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016, H.R. 5757, that would establish an accessible and efficient forum to resolve “small” copyright claims. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), would allow individual authors to protect their intellectual property rights without having to file expensive and complicated federal lawsuits.
The Authors Guild has been actively advocating for a small copyright claims court since 2006, when we testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the need for such a venue, citing an Authors Guild survey that revealed most authors do not have effective access to the courts for many of their copyright infringement claims. As the threats to authors’ copyright incentives have increased since that time—due to the growth of digital book piracy and courts’ reluctance to enforce digital rights—so have our efforts to establish a small claims court. The Guild has been working with Congressman Jeffries’ office on this proposal for several months. It deals with many of the difficult issues involved with creating an effective small copyright claims tribunal.
If you're an author or publisher of original works, I urge you to contact your Congress critter and ask their support of H.R. 5757. It's taken three years just to craft it and get it introduced in the House. The Author's Guild has spent a lot of time and resources to get things to this point, and if enacted, it will provide a much less expensive alternative for authors who seek compensation from piracy of their work. 
In essence, the law would create a small claims court for authors and publishers.

The internet, self-publishing, cheap print on demand technology, and just plain the ability to easily cut and paste material from other sources have all made this kind of revision to U.S. copyright provisions essential. Not every author has the resources of Random House or Hachette behind them, and the Big 6 publishing companies can often afford to just absorb losses when their product is stolen, and to pursue only the most egregious cases. But struggling authors can't. 

Masonic authors are particularly vulnerable to theft, because ours is a very tiny publishing niche. Massive publishing houses have little or no interest in our works at all (unless they can tie it in to a Dan Brown title or some worldwide event), and self-publishing is often the only opportunity Masonic authors have to get their years', and sometimes decades, of work into print. Publishers that specialize in Masonic titles will tell you that, while a major media giant won't even consider a title if it can't be expected to sell at least 20,000 copies or more, folks like Cornerstone, Lewis, Macoy and others often count 1,500 copies as a runaway Masonic blockbuster.

While the proposed law can't stop our books from being illegally digitized and posted on bit torrent sites hosted in Russia, it can at least offer you and me a way to more affordably go after the domestic thieves. That's a good start.
To find your U.S. Representative and their contact information, CLICK HERE.
(As a side note, brother Freemason Theodore Roosevelt signed the Copyright Act of 1909 into law on his last day as President. He went on to become the first vice-president of the Authors Guild.) 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Everybody Wants Young Members

I was reading through one of those big, long, windy Masonic conversations filled with hand-wringing and endless "our numbers of new, young members are plummeting so we're all doomed" comments, earlier. It's kind of interesting to note I've heard the same damned discussion going on for almost 18 years as a Mason. 

Well, it seems we Freemasons aren't the only group looking for ways to bring in new, younger members these days.

From 'Old nudists struggling to recruit nakedness-averse millennials':
"The naturist movement has been dealing with declining membership for some time. In 2007, the American Association for Nude Recreation estimated that 90-percent of its 50,000 members were over the age of 35. Many nudist colonies have tried marketing specifically to 18-35 year olds, but their numbers are still faltering.
An article in Tan, an Australian naturist magazine, speculates that Gen X and Yers don't like "formal, group activities"...
But most importantly, a lack of young people has caused a real manpower crisis in nudist colonies.
"It would be nice to have younger members because we're getting too old to do the physical work," Kent said. "Somebody's gotta do it." 
I found myself wondering if they also fret over which way they wear their rings. If they wear rings.

"Brethren be clothed. Officers take your stations." 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Brother Brent Thompson Masonic Service Wednesday in Texas

From online today:

The Masonic Funeral Service for Officer and Brother Brent Thompson will be held this Wednesday, July 13th, in Corsicana, Texas at 4pm. As most of you are aware, Brother Brent Thompson was of one of the officers killed in the Dallas shootings last week. He was a member of Corsicana Lodge No. 174. Brother Thompson is survived by his wife and 6 children, one of which is a member of the Black Gold Demolay Chapter in Corsicana.
The Grand Master, M:.W:. Wendell P. Miller, will conduct the Masonic Funeral Service for our fallen Brother.
The Masonic Funeral Services will be held at:
Northside Baptist Church
2800 N. Beaton St
Corsicana, TX 75110
Time: 4pm
Please bring your own plain white apron to the Masonic Service, as they are expected to run out of aprons. Please remember that only plain white aprons are authorized for Masonic Funeral Services. Masons (who are able to come early) will meet at Corsicana Lodge No. 174 beginning at 2pm and then proceed to the church together.
Corsicana Lodge No 174 is located at:
201 N. 15th St
Corsicana, TX 75110
Time: 2pm

A GoFundMe account has been set up by the DART police department to support our deceased Brother Officer Brent Thompson's new wife and family. If you wish to donate, the link is here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Masonry on the Channel Island of Jersey

An article on the BBC website today about troubles the lodge on the Channel Island of Jersey (between Britain and France) are having with the local churches:
Freemasons in Jersey have had their request to host a 300th anniversary service at Town Church rejected. 
Next year Freemasons will celebrate the founding of the first lodge in 1717 with services set to take place in major religious buildings worldwide.
Reverend Chris Jervis said granting the request would have been "problematic" due to an "inconsistency between Christianity and freemasonry".
Jersey provincial grand master Ken Rondel, said he was disappointed. Next year more than 20 cathedrals will host services across England to mark the event.
Mr Rondel said: "I wrote to the Dean of Jersey, The Very Reverend Bob Key in 2013 and he deliberated over it and responded saying he didn't think it would be appropriate.
"The only reason he gave was that he didn't feel his church wardens would accept us attending."
Mr Jervis said it was due to the purpose of the building and he was "standing firm on this one".
"Within the context of the building, which is set aside for Christian Worship, it would be problematic to have something that is multi-faith," he said.
"I know of others and I accept that but I can't tie that up. Yes they are disappointed, good and honourable people, that is not the issue." 
Former [provincial] grand master, David Rosser, said they had applied to use other churches but needed a space suitable for more than 300 people.
He said: "We could hold it anywhere, even in the town hall, but I don't expect it would give us the same verve I'm expecting a church will give us."
The Catholic and Methodist churches also rejected requests to host services as they have an international ban on freemasonry.

Well, I know where the Catholics stand, but that's the first time I've ever heard of an "international ban" on Freemasonry by the Methodists. That should come as a surprise to the substantial bunch of them we have as members here in Indiana. But far be it for me to suggest that the venerable Beeb be incorrect.

There are ten lodges that meet on Jersey. Yarborough Lodge No. 244 celebrated its own 200th anniversary on the island in 2012, but all ten of the lodges meet in the central temple building in St. Helier, along with the many appendant bodies.

Jersey is one of the Channel Islands, in the stretch of ocean that divides Britain and France. During WWII, the Islands became the only British territory invaded by Nazi forces, after their occupation of France (Jersey lies just twelve miles off the Normandy coast and had no chance of being defended). There were almost 2,000 British Freemasons on the two main Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, and they were evacuated with most of the inhabitants who were willing to leave once it became clear the Nazis intended to take the territories.

When the German troops occupied Jersey in late June of 1940, their treatment of the British civilians who remained was very different than it had been in other regions throughout Europe. 

From a March 2014 article by Brother David Rosser in Freemasonry Today :
The atmosphere was more relaxed than had been expected, mainly because the German troops were in high spirits; they were convinced that the occupation of Great Britain was but a few days away. And while some restrictions were harsh – for instance, remaining Jewish shops had to display notices to this effect – proclamations issued by the occupying authorities were conciliatory if not, in some respects, almost bizarre.
For instance, islanders were allowed to say prayers for the British Royal Family and the welfare of the British Empire. Likewise, while the National Anthem was not to be sung without permission, it could be listened to on the radio. For Freemasons, the future seemed uncertain. Charles was anxious that nothing be done to make life more difficult for his members and was informed by the German military authorities that, provided no further meetings were held and the masonic temple locked up, the building and its contents would be left alone.
Relying on this, and the proclamation issued on the first day of the occupation, which stated that ‘in the event of peaceful surrender the lives, property and liberty of peaceful inhabitants is solemnly guaranteed’, Charles complied. Furthermore, he instructed that all the beautiful furnishings in the temple, as well as the thousands of priceless items in the library and museum, should remain in situ.
Unfortunately for Freemasons, the proclamation proved untenable. Soon after the establishment of the regular German troops (the Wehrmacht), the Sturmabteilung, or SA, were also despatched to Jersey – more sinister forces bent on pursuing the Nazi official policy against Freemasonry.
The first indication that something was afoot was the unannounced arrival at the masonic temple on 19 November 1940 of the Geheime Feldpolizei – the Secret Field Police – who demanded all keys to the building and proceeded to place seals on every door. Then, on Thursday, 23 January 1941, a squad of special troops from Hitler’s Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg arrived and proceeded to take an inventory of the contents and to photograph the main rooms, including the temple.
‘What was remarkable was that, having taken such drastic action against the physical attributes of Freemasonry, no action was taken to persecute individual masons.’
The investigations led to the despatch of further squads of Einsatzstab from Berlin, who commenced the systematic looting of the building on 27 January 1941. All the main pieces of furniture, the many beautiful furnishings, and the contents of the library and museum were stripped out, loaded onto lorries and shipped off the island. Anything that the looters did not want was either smashed and left lying around or piled in great heaps and burnt. Photographs taken when the building was repossessed by masonic authorities in 1945 reveal the scale of the devastation inflicted. 
It subsequently came to light, from articles published in the local newspaper, which was under the control of the occupying authorities, that the reason for the removal of furnishings from the temple was to transport them to Berlin for use in an anti-masonic exhibition. Likewise, the photographs were taken to enable exhibition managers to replicate the layout of a lodge room. 
Exhibitions were also staged in Paris, Brussels and Vienna using artefacts stolen in similar fashion from French and Belgian lodges; another was held in Belgrade. It is known that artefacts were also taken from masonic buildings throughout the Netherlands, so there was little shortage of suitable material with which to stage such exhibitions.
Thankfully, the main fabric of the building remained undamaged and for the remainder of the occupation it was used to store liquor and confiscated wireless sets. What was most remarkable was that, having taken such drastic action against the physical attributes of Freemasonry, and given the purpose of the notorious Black Book, no action was taken to harass or persecute individual masons, full details of whom would have been ascertainable from the stolen masonic records.
The situation becomes more astonishing given that in 1942, and again in 1943, Hitler ordered all high-ranking Freemasons to be deported to Germany. The orders were sent directly to the Commander-in-Chief, but no action was taken to identify, locate and deport these senior masons, of whom there were many. This opens up the intriguing line of speculation that some of the most senior military commanders had masonic connections or sympathies, or may even have been members of the Craft at some time.

A more detailed telling of the story of the sacking of the Jersey temple by the Gestapo can be FOUND HERE


I did a little digging. There is not now, nor has there ever been an "international ban" against Masonic membership by the Methodists.  Only the Methodist Church of Great Britain has a policy (passed in 1985 and revised in 1996) restricting the use of their churches for Masonic meetings or other related purposes. The restriction is only regarding the use of their church buildings. And the Order DOES permit services of the sort described in the article above, and gives discretion to the church's local trustees.

Standing Order No. 919 reads:

919 Masonic Services and Meetings.
  1. (1)  Meetings of Freemasons’ Lodges or other meetings for masonic purposes may not be held on Methodist premises.
  2. (2)  Services exclusively for Freemasons may not be held on Methodist premises.
  3. (3)  If a Freemasons’ Lodge requests that a service be held on Methodist premises, the trustees may at their discretion either withhold permission or grant permission on the following conditions:
  1. (i)  the service shall be one of public Christian worship held in accordance with Methodist practice and complying with the Model Trusts;
    (ii)  the contents of the service shall first be seen and approved by the Superintendent;
    (iii)  it shall be conducted by a person appointed by the Superintendent. 
Note that the Methodists of Britain are not forbidden to join Masonic organizations. And outside of Britain, there are no such restrictions on their church buildings. 

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Former Masonic Home Kids Visit Indiana Masonic Museum & Library

Between 1916 and 1972, over 800 children came to live at the Indiana Masonic Home (recently renamed Compass Park) in Franklin, Indiana. Most were orphans, but some were sent to the Home simply because of tough economic times that forced their parents to seek desperate help they couldn't provide themselves. The children lived and attended school on the campus up through high school. While kids remained at the Home through 1972, the Masonic Home High School closed in 1944 due to a lack of enough students. The kids in those classes that year transferred to Franklin High School to finish out their four year requirement, graduating from FHS in 1950.

Several of the kids from that year's class live today, and recently made a visit to the Indiana Masonic Library and Museum in Indiana Freemason's Hall in Indianapolis for their 66th reunion to see the exhibits dedicated to telling the story of their lives at the Home.

Over the years, I've spoken to people who were raised in "orphanages" and not many look fondly on their experience. That's not so with the "Home kids."  When they tell their stories, they have wonderful memories. Over the years, they have held reunions at the Home and walk the grounds and point to a building that's no longer there, or wistfully describe an activity. There aren't sad faces among these folks.

From a very long story on the Franklin's Daily Journal website by Ryan Trares:
For the men and women who had grown up at the home, the experience walking through the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana was riveting. They had been brought together when their parents died, abandoned them or no longer could afford to care for them. 
That shared experience is one that the resident cherish, and they forged friendships that would last for a lifetime.
“I had three brothers and no sisters, but when I came to the home, I gained a lot of brothers and sisters. We felt that way; we were a very close-knit group of people,” said Dorothy Howard, who came to the home in 1937. “The same thing happened to all of us.”
The trip to the museum had been planned as part of Franklin High School Class of 1950’s yearly reunion. Some members of that class had lived at the home.
After a breakfast together June 18 in Franklin, they traveled to the museum, located in downtown Indianapolis. Organizers had arranged for the museum to be opened up, a rarity for the space, which is closed on the weekends.
The museum included a large component looking at the Masonic Home and the lives of the children who lived there. That was what the group wanted to see.
“It had artifacts, some stories, toys we played with, basketball jerseys,” said Morgan McCandless, a former Indiana Masonic Home kid.
The museum had been in existence since the early 1900s, but an added emphasis was made in the mid-1990s to add more displays and properly take care of the items in storage it had collected.
Originally, it has been housed in Franklin on the grounds of the Indiana Masonic Home. Only in 2008 did it move to the Grand Masonic Lodge in Indianapolis to gain more attention, said Mike Brumback, director of the museum.
The museum contains artifacts from throughout Indiana Masonic history, including bricks from the White House found with Masonic symbols and an apron worn by Battle of Tippecanoe commander Major Joseph Hamilton Daveiss. But it’s the items related to the Masonic Home kids that get the most attention.
“The kids had a nice life, and it’s an important story for our fraternity and for our guests. Those items probably attract as much emotion as any other story we have to tell,” Brumback said.
The Indiana Masonic Home opened in 1916, with the intention of being a self-sustaining home for widows and orphans of Indiana Masons and Eastern Star members.
“One of our missions in Masonry is to help our fellow man, so the Indiana Masonic Home was one of our major statements,” Brumback said. “It was founded at a time when there was no welfare, no social security, nothing. So the Masons started talking about doing something to help others.”
During the next 60 years, it would house 812 children. They were provided with rooms, clothing and regular meals. At Christmas, members of Masonic lodges helped provide money for gifts for the kids to open, and on Easter, they were served a feast.
“We couldn’t have had a better life than we had as children,” Howard said. “It was during the Depression, and that was a hard time for everybody. But we always had good food, and we had more clothes than most other children.”
Howard came to live at the home in 1937, at age 6. Her mother had died, and her father, after losing his business in the Great Depression, had to find other work and was unable to care for his children.
She was often upset and homesick, and would call her dad to come get her. But at the same time, she grew close with the other kids. Looking back, it was a blessing to be able to go to the home, she said.
“I feel like he did the right thing to send me down here,” she said.
Every child who lived at the home was given an education, both in the classroom and in the value of hard work.
The home contained an elementary, junior high and high school. When the children at the home weren’t in class, they were doing chores to support the home.
The home had its own farm, vegetable garden, print shop and powerhouse. Children helped staff the kitchen that cooked all of their food, tended crops, hooked horses to the wagon each morning for the trash route, milked cows and loaded coal.
“My buddy Billy and I, our job was to shovel the coal bins ever morning,” said Morgan McCandless, a former Masonic Home resident. “We became tough guys doing that.”
For the rest of the article, CLICK HERE